PRESS STATEMENT ON THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE “NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTION” IN BAHRAIN
The King of Bahrain recently formed a governmental body under the name of “the National Human Rights Institution”
NGOs consider this a non-independent government-backed organization and will continue demanding the formation of an independent national institution
The choice of members appointed by royal order to the committee of this organization poses serious questions on the credibility and independence of this organization and the NGOs these members are associated with
2 May 2010
After an eight year wait, and promises made by the Bahraini government to set up a national institution for human rights, the King of Bahrain issued royal order (46) for 2009 to set up “National Human Rights Institution”. Furthermore, royal order (16) for 2010 appointing the Chairman and members of the “National Human Rights Institution”.
One of the main tenets of the Paris Principles about the establishment of human rights institution is that the composition of the national institution and the appointment of its members have guarantees of independence and pluralism.
A glance at the names of the 20 appointed members, we find that 5 members hold high ranking positions in ministries and government bodies; another 6 are currently appointed on or were previously appointed in the hand-picked upper house of parliament (the Shura Council); 5 members are members of other human rights organizations that are government-made or backed , so-called “gongos”; 4 members are close associates to the government which include a journalist, two former officials in the Interior Ministry and Defence Ministry and an academic; the final 3 members are controversial figures associated with different NGOs.
The appointment of this institution through royal order contradicts the proposed parliamentary bill by MPs to form this institution according to the Paris Principles and also did not consult with stakeholders in the community and civil society groups.
Overall, the composition of members does not reflect the voices of genuine NGOs responsible for human rights, trade unions, trends in philosophical or religious thought. In addition, the composition also violates the principle that government officials should participate in the institution in an advisory capacity only since several members hold positions in the Labour, Health and Education Ministries. Overall, the composition is neither independent nor pluralistic and the institution is expected to be biased towards its patron as time will certainly show.